Until There were Four Feet of Water in the Engine Room
Evidence Given by an Oiler --- The Enquiry by the Coroner
First - The Chief Engineer S. De Launay allowed the water to attain a depth of between three and four feet in the hold of the vessel before he notified Capt. Roberts.
Second - A strong intimation, in effect, on the part of the marine inspectors the De Launay should have reported the matter to Capt. Roberts at least an hour earlier than he did.
Third - That by doing so it would have given Capt. Roberts as opportunity to run the steamer upon the Dungeness shoals, saving many lives and perhaps the vessel as well.
Fourth - That the 'Clallam' had a powerful pump equipment, the combined capacity of which exceeded 400 tons of water an hour; the Chief De Launay was unable to tell the capacity of his pumps; that they were allowed to choke and were soon rendered of no service.
Fifth - That the 'Clallam' took four or five feet of water in about half an hour and that it was nine or ten hours later before she foundered.
Continuing, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer says:
Had Chief Engineer Scott De Launay exercised reasonable discretion, and promptly reported the condition of the 'Clallam' to Capt. Roberts, her commander, the latter might have saved the fifty-four lives lost in the terrible disaster of January 8. So much seems certain from the testimony adduced during the investigation begun yesterday, before United States Marine Inspectors Whitney and Turner. The testimony unmistakably points to the conclusion that, accounting to well established marine regulations, as old almost as the history of steamboating, De Launay should have made a report of the condition of the ship, especially down in the engine room, fully an hour earlier than he did:
A timely report would have given Capt. Roberts an opportunity to run the 'Clallam' onto the sandy headland about Dungeness long before the lifeboats were lowered, thus giving every one on board the vessel the opportunity to get off in safety and perhaps to save the vessel as well.
Five witnesses testified yesterday. They were Capt. Roberts, Chief Engineer S. De Launay, J.W. Doney, first officer and pilot: L. Meyers, quartermaster, and William Cox, former assistant engineer of the 'Clallam', and who superintended the installing of her pumps and other machinery.
Capt. Roberts related the sad story of the disaster in a straightforward manner. He displayed no bitterness towards anyone. He told of the sailing of the 'Clallam' from this port, her arrival at and departure from Port Townsend. When the vessel began to jump after rounding Point Wilson, he got up, having lain down for a rest, as was his custom on leaving Port Townsend. Not long thereafter the chief engineer spoke to him through the tube, simply informing him that the vessel had stove in one of her ports. Next came a report of one of the deadlights being stove in, followed still later by a notification from the chief engineer in person. Chief Roberts hastened below. An appalling sight, the full meaning of which came to him instantly, met his eyes.
The ship then had three or four feet of water in her hold. It was a time for decisive action. Capt. Roberts consulted with his old-time friend, Capt. Lawrence. They agreed that the ship could not live long; that the boats should be lowered and the women and children gotten off, if possible. Capt. Lawrence not only endorsed this plan , but he undertook to help execute it, at the sacrifice of his own life, in commanding the first of the three boats lowered.
When these three boats capsized Capt. Roberts decided to lower no more. He would do the best he could with the ship until assistance came.
Capt. Roberts gave positive testimony respecting the equipment and seaworthiness of the lifeboats. They were not overloaded, and while two had space and equipment for twenty-two people, neither carried more than seventeen. The third and smallest boat probably did not have half that number.
Mate Doney, in the main, corroborated Capt. Roberts. His testimony threw little new light. He had charge of the vessel after leaving Townsend until the threatening weather roused Capt. Roberts, who at once resumed command.
Doney was closely questioned by the inspectors, especially regarding the reports made from the engine room.
The inspectors handled Chief De Launay unsparingly. They did not concede their surprise at the innaness of his explanation of many things, their questions and pointed, observations disclosed astonishment at his not having reported the condition of the ship more earlier. His testimony tended to show that he waded in water almost waist deep before making the fact known to Capt. Roberts that the vessel was in next to a sinking condition. Inspector Turner, himself a trained engineer, and representing that branch of the marine inspection service, asked the most questions of De Launay. Capt. Whitney took a turn every now and then.
Mr Turner declared that he could not comprehend how De Launay, an engineer holding a chief's licence, having well-equipped pumps with a total capacity of 100 tons of water an hour, could not have relieved the vessel at least at the rate of 100 tons an hour, which would have meant the saving of so many lives. The ship, Mr. Turner reminded the chief, had floated ten hours after the fires were out, and intimated that had the pumps been properly handled from the start she might have floated indefinitely.
De Launay repeatedly took refuge behind the statement in effect that the pumps choked - would not work. His testimony, Mr. Turner pointedly reminded him, disclosed that the 'Clallam' had taken five or six feet of water in half an hour, but that it took ten hours for enough water to get in to sink her.
De Launay, under a crossfire of questions, admitted that he did not know the capacity of his pumps, an admission which brought forth expressions of surprise from the inspectors. Mr. Turner then announced the capacity of the five available pumps on the 'Clallam' at 827 gallons of water a minute. He reminded De Launay that he had allowed the water to attain a depth of four or five feet before notifying Capt. Roberts.
Here Capt. Whitney interposed the question:
"Don't you think if it good policy under such circumstances for the man in charge of the engines and pumps to notify the bridge."
De Launay assented. It was shown that three-quarters of an hour had elapsed from the time the fire pump was put on the bilge up to the time of the circulating pump connection, and still no report to the master of the steamer.
De Launay was questioned closely as to his opinion of the source of the water, but he testified that he had no knowledge where the principal leak was. He did not know where the water was coming from.
None of the witnesses could enlighten the inspectors on this point, which has been one of the most perplexing questions in connection with the disaster.
L. Meyer, quartermaster, and William Cox, testified briefly. The latter installed the pumps for their manufacturer, and declared them to be first-class in every respect. In his opinion no vessel of the 'Clallam's' size had more powerful pumps.